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Religion, Gender Norms and Campus Rape Culture: Building Resistance from Below

Selina Palm


In recent years, protests against campus rape culture at South African higher education institutions have attracted public attention. Despite strong constitutional provisions, a culture of sexual and gendered violence remains endemic in South Africa. In the light of the gap between legal forms and social norms, this article argues for building socio-political resistance from below that starts with exploring the lived experiences of young women. It therefore introduces the voice of one ordinary student who inhabits these spaces. She highlights the need for attention to be paid to the gendered social norms that underpin this culture of sexual violence, the possibilities of engaging men as allies and the important but ambiguous role of the Christian religion. Research suggests that bystanders like her can become important agents of change. The article concludes that the connections between hierarchical gender norms, religious formation and rape culture need further empirical engagement in South Africa if their power-laden roots are to be disrupted and reimagined.


rape culture; religion; gender norms; South Africa; feminism

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